“Oh my goodness,” whispers Pastor Ed Doerner of Messiah, Midland in awe of the destruction and amount of trash lining the streets in Sanford, Mich. It is shocking. Some piles are as high as the buildings and homes in the neighborhoods. Even weeks after the May 21 disaster, when the dams broke and flood waters rushed through so many areas, there are still homes that need to be cleaned out and structures that need to be fortified.
Our Michigan District, LCMS churches are right in the middle of the relief efforts. Messiah, Midland is helping send teams out into areas hit the hardest. Ray Pratt Jr, from Trinity, Utica has been up there a while digging out people’s belongings and getting them ready for the next phase of reconstruction. Pratt has been sleeping on the floor at Messiah during the cleanup.
Shepherd’s Gate, Shelby Township is sending groups of volunteers up to Midland numerous times. On Saturday, June 6, the church gave Messiah a $5,000 check to help with the relief efforts. The group also helped clean out Jon Rogers’ beautiful lakefront home on Wixom Lake. In one day, they filled up two dumpsters and made Rogers’ cleanup job ready for a contractor. Rogers was filled with gratitude and told the group, “They say out of bad comes good all the time, but this is like the best thing that’s ever happened to me. It’s like a miracle.”
Pastor Doerner checked out the dam that broke at Sanford Lake. It wrecked the downtown area. The rushing waters tore apart the main street into town, filled businesses and homes, and washed away baseball and softball fields at the park. The flood forced many evacuations including that of a man named Paul, who Doerner bumped into in Sanford. Paul was forced to grab his family and drive his camper out of town when the floods hit. He is unemployed because of the Covid-19 pandemic and unemployment checks stopped coming in weeks ago. He told Doerner he and his family were staying in the camper at a parking lot in Mt. Pleasant. Their nightly dinner consisted of canned tuna.
After building a relationship with Paul, Doerner convinced the former Sanford resident to meet him at The Bridge Food Center, a grocery store and mission owned by Messiah. Doerner was able to give the man a $500 gift card, along with another gift card to buy groceries at The Bridge. “Way overwhelmed,” is how Paul described his reaction to Doerner’s generosity.
Jackie Maxwell has been organizing much of the relief effort for Messiah. She has church groups reaching out daily about coming to help. She has also seen the devastation the floods have caused, but she remains hopeful and remembers her faith with every act of kindness that happens to all the people in this area. “Part of you gets exhausted, but I watch what happens here [like] this morning; it restores your faith for sure in light of humankind, in light of everything 2020 has kinda thrown this way.” Maxwell said, “Get your faith back in God and keep it there.”
To see this story in video format, click on the image below. If you want to help the relief effort in the Midland area, email Maxwell at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 989.631.5200.
Photos and video by Jeff Heisner/Michigan District, LCMS